Stop covering up as a startup, NOW

How long  should startups be called startup? At which point should they stop using that word to define themselves?

It looks like some CEO founders forever like to hide behind “oh, but we are just a startup” in attempt to avoid responsibility for their incapability of leading the company.
It sounds like some kind of excuse not to expect too much of them, get financial mercy, excuses to buyers, fetch cheap labor, etc….

Company that has been 7 years around, has 50 employees and some funding should not be called startup anymore. Or?

  • Startup founder and CEO here. My startup is still a real one, young, small, and not secured at all. Not funded, we are 100% bootstrapped. No doubt it’s a startup. But one day, maybe it would be hard for me to say I’m a CEO of a “real company”, which is not a startup anymore. I think I won’t do that. And it will not be an excuse for anything you may think about.

    In fact, being CEO in a startup is a very different job than being a CEO in an established company. Being a CEO is not my goal. I wouldn’t like this job. I’m not attracted by power or titles. I like money but to a limited point which is easy enough to reach without being CEO or founder. What I like is innovation. Being the visionary guy in an innovative startup. That’s why I’m a startup CEO.

    What will be the future for me ? If my startup is a large success, I won’t be the CEO of the established company. Maybe I could become CTO or VP in a big company after M&A. Or maybe I could hire a “real CEO” and become CTO in my own company if it grows independently. Or maybe I could retire and write books…

    If my startup is a modest success, it would mean it became a small business. I’m Ok with the title of “business owner”. That’s fine as soon as I’m free to imagine, create and deliver innovative products. After all, there is not much difference between a bootstrapped startup and a small business, if you reason in pure financing terms. But I think I will use the word “startup” as long as I will produce risky innovation with fragile financing. I like this life, and I like the word which describes it.

  • While many of us carry both the founder and CEO designations, early on we tend to be more founder and less CEO. As our companies grow, we’re forced to grow into the role of CEO – or find someone who will assume that role. Similarly, the same maturation happens with the organization as a whole. Whether or not you still refer to your company as a startup doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’re able to put into place the infrastructure to enable your company to scale and succeed. I think much of the frustration voiced by the OP is attributable to founders who fail to grow into CEOs and who fail to realize they’re hampering the growth of their companies.

    • +1

      “I think much of the frustration voiced by the OP is attributable to founders who fail to grow into CEOs and who fail to realize they’re hampering the growth of their companies.”

      Exactly that…the trouble is, they have people working for them so founders should feel responsible and not only indulge into ego-crazy-inovation attitude.

      I have no idea who can shake these individuals to the level to admit they were not born for it and let somebody with more leadership skills to lead.

      Tons of startups are a sheer bs, imho.

  • A start up is a group of people at the beginning of an adventure. As long as you are aiming at hypergrowth for your organization, you are running a start-up. Google with 500 employees was a start up. You only loose your start-up status when you give up on your dream to change the world.

  • The Q was – loads of leaders using “startups” as an excuse for their own slackness not knowing how to lead, and of course it’s fashionable too.

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